I spend a lot of time working with a global entrepreneurs organisation. I learn so much from these experiences and I also share my insights as a business owner in the hope that they will help other entrepreneurs grow. But sometimes these interactions can be quite taxing.
Have you ever been in a business meeting and the person in charge is leading the entire team down a long and winding track, adding in countless unnecessary steps to the process? It’s a bit like travelling from Cape Town to Camps Bay, via Cairo. It just doesn’t make much sense. And you sit there listening to what they’re suggesting but knowing that there’s a far simpler, more efficient way to achieve the same outcome. I recently had an experience like this with a peer that really tested my patience. It caused me to take a long, hard look at my approach to leadership. What I realised is that good leaders must be able to lead AND follow. Sometimes when you follow, you have to travel all the way to Cairo, even though you know you didn’t have to. Why? Well, because you’ll inevitably learn something new as you go along.
Finding the golden nugget
As a leader, you’re often more advanced than those around you but that doesn’t give you the right to be impatient. You need to be tolerant and respect the fact that everyone is on his or her own journey. It’s really tough to change someone else’s direction. If they’re set on heading to Cairo, they’re going to Cairo no matter what you say. As a leader, you need to travel with them for a while, talk to them and share your concerns and ideas about the route before you get too far.
It’s important to ask questions about why they’re approaching the trip in this way. Often, they’ll open your eyes to a new perspective or present a fresh approach on how to handle a problem. You may have thought that you had the right answer at the start of the journey but if you’ve learned something on your expedition to Cairo, have you really lost out? This is the golden nugget. Finding the golden nugget or lesson in every experience – even those that are most challenging – is what makes a good leader.
This experience caused me to reflect on my personal and business values. It made me think about whether I really live these values. If your business values include concepts like respect and teamwork, making those values tangible is about supporting your colleague on the trip to Cairo even if you think there is a better way.
Your leadership journey doesn’t always happen in a straight line. Which isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re learning something along the way. I often write about business strategy and leadership for the Nebula blog. If you’d like to have insights like these delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our monthly newsletter below.